Press Release

Release Date: July 02, 2024
by Chickasaw Nation Media Relations Office

Author and playwright Laura Shamas, Ph.D., was selected to receive a 2023 Los Angeles New Play Project (LANPP) Award. Her play, “Four Women in Red,” will premiere at the Victory Theatre Center during the 2024-2025 season.

“I am still totally shocked and humbled by this award,” Shamas said. “I started to faint when they told me. It was amazing to win $20,000 for writing this play. It means the world to me that the Victory Theatre also won $20,000 to produce it.”

As an author of more than 40 plays, Shamas originally wrote “Four Women in Red” as a short play to be performed for the Autry Native Voices Festival in 2020 at Autry Museum of the American West in Los Angeles, California.

“Native Voices announced that they would be producing a virtual short play festival in the fall of 2020. I wanted to write something to participate and also to honor their kind work. The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women issues were the issues that I cared most about. So, I wrote a 10-minute choreopoem called ‘Four Women in Red,’ and it was selected for their short play festival.”

Due to a positive reception of the original 10-minute play, Shamas extended “Four Women in Red” with a full-length script. It made its debut in 2021.

Excerpts from the monologue were also published by Smith and Kraus in “The Best Women’s Stage Monologues” in 2022.

“The entire cast will be First American women,” Shamas said. “We are seeking a First American woman to direct it. We hope the play will be produced in the fall of 2024.”

“Four Women in Red” explores the issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. The play focuses on four women of different generations trying to bring home the spirits of First American women who have been killed.

According to Rebecca West, curator of the Plains Indian Museum, red is a color spirits can see. Red has become a symbol to bring awareness to murdered and missing Indigenous women.

Information provided from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, non-Hispanic American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) females experienced the second highest rate of homicide in 2020.

Additionally, in 2020 homicide was in the top 10 leading causes of death for AI/AN females ages 1 to 45.

The Victory Theatre Center is a small theater center with two stages. The larger theater seats 99, with the smaller accommodating an audience of 45.

“For 30 years, Victory Theatre Center has only produced new plays in Los Angeles. Many of their plays are about important topics that are written by talented playwrights. It is an honor to be produced by them.”

Shamas is also working on a short play commissioned by Repro Freedom Arts that will explore the critical issues of reproductive rights and environmental justice.

“The connection between the two is complex,” Shamas said. “The maternal mortality rose in the U.S. by 40% in 2021. Most are not aware of that; I was not aware.

“Depending on the environmental conditions of where and how you live — if you live near a landfill, for example, and what you eat and drink — reproduction abilities of both women and men are greatly affected.”

Born and raised in Oklahoma, Shamas’ education and career have allowed her to travel extensively. She is currently living in southern California. Along with her plays, Shamas has written many essays and has authored three books, “Playwriting for Theater, Film and Television,” “Pop Mythology: Collected Essays” and “We Three: The Mythology of Shakespeare’s Weird Sisters.”

Shamas said she receives her Chickasaw heritage and her love of the theater from her mother, Merrell Annawyn DeBenning Shamas, a talented actress and director in Ponca City and Tulsa, Oklahoma. An Oklahoma State University alum, she will be receiving the Distinguished Alumnae Award in October from the university’s college of arts and sciences for her contributions to community theater.

“My family always emphasized and honored our Chickasaw heritage and our Oklahoma roots,” Shamas said. “My Chickasaw citizenship is a foundational aspect of my personal identity and how I understand the world.”